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Occasional Poetry

Gerhardt was essentially a "Gelegenheitsdichter," a poet of occasions, choosing for his themes the various vicissitudes of life and such events as would present themselves to an earnest pastor devoted to the flock under his care. We may define him more precisely as a poet of consolation, for at least seventeen of his hymns are to be classed as "Songs of the Cross and Consolation,"8585Cf. Index by subjects, Appendix, pp. 158 ff. and fully half his work contains much that is intended as a source of comfort in the many afflictions of the troublous times in which 22 he lived. An enumeration of "Trost" words shows the use of "Trost" 51 times, "getrost" 11, "trösten" 10, "trostlos," "tröstlich" 2, besides numerous phrases such as "Erschrecke nicht,"8686Goed. 271, 8. "Sei unverzagt,"8787Goed. 185, 42. "Sei ohne Furcht,"8888Goed. 289, 3. "Gott hat mich nicht verlassen."8989Goed. 296, 31. In this connection we should consider Gerhardt's use of the word "Trost." With him it seems often to have a wider meaning than merely solace, or comfort. At times it approaches even its English cognate trust, or at least that comfort or assurance which is born of trust.9090Cf. the meaning of the modern German "getrost." In the poem beginning "Schwing dich auf zu deinem Gott" the word seems clearly to be used in this sense in line 7:

Merkst du nicht des Satans List?
Er will durch sein Kämpfen
Deinen Trost,9191Goed. 135, 7; cf. also Goed. 135, 132; 30, 127; 150, 74; 217, 59; 317, 40. den Jesus Christ
Dir erworben, dämpfen.

At other times the meaning is apparently the ground of confidence or reliance, as in the line: "Dein Arm ist mein Trost gewesen."9292Goed. 145, 19; cf. also Goed. 46, 16; 150, 43. Since joy is to Gerhardt innately associated with the theme of comfort, we find in his verses a host of phrases embodying cheer and joy:

Lasz deine Frömmigkeit
Sein meinen Trost und Freud.9393Goed. 65, 22. For the frequent use of "Trost und Freude" and "Freude und Trost," cf. Appendix, p. 155 and p. 153.

By enumeration we find the use of "Freude" 161 times; of "Freudenlicht" (-quell, -schein, etc.) 33 times; of "freuen" and "erfreuen" 22 times; of "froh," "frö(h)lich," "freudig," "freudenvoll," "selig," etc. 50 times; of other kindred expressions, such as "Lust," "Wonne," "Seligkeit," "Freudigkeit," etc. 8 times. Stanza VI of the "Adventgesang" (Goed. 108) is a fair example of Gerhardt's fondness for singing of joys both temporal and spiritual:

Aller Trost und aller Freude
Ruht in dir, Herr Jesu Christ;
Dein Erfreuen ist die Weide,
Da man sich recht frölich iszt.
Leuchte mir, o Freudenlicht,
Ehe mir mein Herze bricht;
Lasz mich, Herr, an dir erquicken!
Jesu, komm, lasz dich erblicken!
23

Compare with this the lines from the hymn based on Johann Arndt's "Gebet um Geduld in groszem Creutz" (Goed. 209):

St. XIV. "O heilger Geist, du Freudenöl,
Das Gott vom Himmel schicket,
Erfreue mich, gib meiner Seel
Was Mark und Bein erquicket!
Du bist der Geist der Herrlichkeit,
Weiszt, was für Freud und Seligkeit
Mein in dem Himmel warte."

A pastor and poet whose spirit amidst the hardships of the war can not only remain undaunted but bring so large a measure of cheer to his flock is indeed destined to have an immortal name. It was the everpresent hardships of war, however, that made him long not merely for an earthly peace but also for spiritual rest. As an advocate of peace and contentment he has among his contemporaries no equal. Having hoped and prayed during the war for a cessation of hostilities and horrors he could at last burst forth at the conclusion of the Peace of Westphalia in his magnificent

Gott Lob! nun ist erschollen
Das edle Fried- und Freudenswort."9494Goed. 95.

Furthermore he preaches patience and contentment with life's experiences. Notably does this appear in the poem "Gib dich zufrieden" (Goed. 274) where each stanza has these words as the refrain. Taking as his theme "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him" (Ps. XXXVII, 7) he reveals to his fellow-men the joys and comforts that await the true believers even though they must pass through pain, anxiety, and even death. As their tears are counted and their sighs are heard, so a day of rest is at hand when God shall receive the meek in the abundance of peace, and 'they shall then be exalted to inherit the land.'9595Cf. also the poem "Geduld ist euch vonnöten" (Goed. 267), where each of the 14 stanzas begins with the word "Geduld." But how very deeply Gerhardt felt this yearning for spiritual as well as material peace is best seen from the constant recurrence of the root "Friede." Of this word and its compounds we note 33 examples, and of "Ruhe," "Stille," Rast" and similar words, 16.


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